Thursday, January 24, 2019

Attention Getters

Do people hold radical political beliefs because they really believe in them, or because they get a lot of attention for having them?

It seems in the last five to ten years that our world has taken a turn towards radical belief.   Our European friends like to tsk-tsk us about Donald Trump, conveniently forgetting their own Marie Le Pen, Brexit, Yellow Vests, and whatnot - radical and often violent political movements that are spreading across the continent - often goaded on by foreign (Russian) social media hacks.

But it isn't just Europe - it seems to be a worldwide thing.   Strong-man dictators on the one hand, far-leftist socialists and communists, on the other.  Increasingly, the two are harder and harder to tell apart.   Are Maduro or Kim Jong Un left-wing communists or right-wing fascists?   If you ask the people who suffer under these "leaders" they'd probably tell you there isn't much of a difference.  The bottom line is suffering by the people and aggrandizement by the leaders.

But elsewhere, where people still do have choices, many people chose extremism, including here in the United States.   All our problems would be solved "if only" a certain political philosophy was followed - with no compromises with the opposition!   So we have people on the far-right embracing white nationalism (without apology) and people on the left advocating for a socialist or communist utopia.   Meanwhile, the vast majority - the silent majority, if you will - don't feel strongly about politics at all, and just wished the extremists would go away.

But we never hear from the vast center - they are not newsworthy, nor do they generate click-bait headlines.   The centrists are busy working and paying the bills and are not marching in the streets demanding that the status quo be maintained.   And historically, they never are.

But today, in the world of social media and click-bait headlines, extremist views are amplified - to the point where people think they represent "movements" of one sort or another.   If you listen to the press, you'd think that white nationalists make up half the country - or at least a quarter.   And you might also believe that "Democratic Socialists" make up a majority of the country or even a majority of the Democratic party.   The real truth is, these are fringe movements, representing fringe thought.

The press loves them, though, and so do you and I.   We might despise Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (only because trying to remember how to spell her name is a royal pain in the ass) but we click on articles about her to see what outrageous thing she said today.   Then we click on some Trump article to see what outrageous thing he said today.

As I noted in a very early post:
In Howard Stern's movie "Private Parts" there is a line that illustrates how this works. The station manager is reading the latest A.C. Nielsen ratings and says:

"50% of listeners LOVE Howard Stern and listen for an average of 1.5 hours. Reason given? They want to hear what he'll say next!"

"50% of listeners HATE Howard Stern and listen for an average of 2.5 hours. Reason given? They want to hear what he'll say next!"

Whether this survey was actually true, it illustrates the twisted genius of Stern and other "shock jock" and talk show hosts, as well as television programmers. Their goal is to get you to listen or watch, so they can sell you, like a pimp sells a whore, to advertisers.

So, we ourselves "amplify" extremist thought by clicking on these stories.   We are not supporting white supremacy, fascism, socialism, or communism.   In fact, we are often alarmed by these trends, which is why we click on these stories.   But that bootstraps the whole deal - we click and the media sees this and gives us more "red meat" to chew on - more alarmist stories about the far-right or far left.

But I think also, these sort of extremist views, by their very nature of getting attention, obtain more followers.   As I noted before, every generation of young people wants to wear their hair and style their clothes in ways that alarm the older generation.   So if you see that Mom and Dad freak out if you become a hippie, all the better to become one - now you have a modicum of power in a perverse sense, over the folks. 

It really doesn't matter what the political views are, so long as they are contrary to your parents'.   For example, in the 1980's, many baby boomers were alarmed by their children espousing conservative views.  Again, this may have been less a genuine conversion to a political philosophy than an attention-getting device.

Since these "movements" get attention, people flock to them.   Like I said before, the status quo doesn't have a parade or a march you can get behind.   But the extremists do.    So which march do you join?

Funny thing, too.  When I was a kid, we did have parades for the status quo.  Memorial day, 4th of July, Labor day - the whole town would turn out, with the fire trucks (that we were all so proud of, having had bake sales to pay for them), the high school marching band, the local chapter of the Boy Scouts, the VFW, and whatnot.   Speeches would be made and we would all congratulate ourselves for living in the greatest country in the world - and of course the best town in the best country in the world!

Today, I am not so sure we have parades like this anymore.   The sense of community - the marching for the status quo - seems diminished.   Perhaps we think those sort of things are antiquated, or hokey or naive.   I am not sure.   All I am sure of is, that young people today have a limited menu of "movements" to chose from - far-left or far-right.   And when one gets a permit to march, the other will show up to cause havoc.

But speaking of marches, this "women's march" movement seems to be collapsing under the weight of the hypocrisy of Political Correctness - that and how organizations quickly morph into self-protection mode  It turns out that one group of people involved in this "movement" (which seems to have vague and loosely defined goals and demands, other than to "empower women") decided to incorporate as "Women's March, Inc."

That's all very well and fine, but this "national" organization wanted to anoint local chapters and marches, something maybe local people didn't want any part of.   And when they found out that some of the members of the "national" organization were antisemitic, well, it drove away a lot of potential members and marchers.   In New York City, they are having competing marches as a result.  I wish I could say I never saw this coming, but in every movement, there are splinter groups and factions.

One reason people are moving away from this national organization is that some of the leaders apparently espoused admiration for Louis Farrakhan, who heads the "Nation of Islam" and has made many homophobic and antisemitic comments in the past.  Some blame him for the assassination of Macolm X (factions, again), including Malcom's widow, who died horribly in a house fire started by her grandson (who later on was murdered, himself).

If it weren't so freaking sad, it would be funny.  Because in Northern California, they are cancelling a "woman's march" for being too white in a community that is mostly white (about 1% black).   As I said, the whole thing is collapsing under the weight of hypocrisy of political correctness.

It is very sad, too.   For some reason, the black community is being told that Jews are the enemy - repeating the same old tired saw about Jews being "slave-traders" in the past, when in fact, the vast majority of slave-traders, slave shippers, and slave owners, were God-fearing Christian folk, who used the Bible as justification for enslaving a race of people.  Folks are buying into the myth because of what they are reading on social media.  And what they read on social media could be coming from Russia or God-knows-where.

But hey, we have people today who believe that vaccines cause autism and that jet airplanes are spraying chemicals on us.  Our friends at the Internet Research Agency have really done their job - and our public schools haven't done theirs.   Skepticism and analytical thinking have really taken a hit in recent years.

How will this end?   Eventually - eventually - people will come to their senses.   But likely there will have to be a lot of suffering or even death before this happens.   Lincoln said it best - "You can fool some of the people all of the time, or all of the people some of the time, but not all of the people all of the time."   And he said this as he lead the country through its greatest war - one that slaughtered more people than all of the other wars we've engaged in, combined.

Which leads me to believe that we may be headed for some sort of war, sometime in the not-too-distant future.   And that is what Putin (among others) are aiming at.   So many Americans today are already talking about "secession" from the country or forming "sovereign nations" in their back yards, or dividing California into two or three States.  We must overcome the tyranny of Washington!  After all, it is so much worse that the tyranny others are suffering from Caracas, Moscow, or Beijing.  Americans really need to get out more and see the world - and see how lucky they are.

But maybe that won't happen.  Maybe folks will start to see through this nonsense and see that extremism is a vice - even in defense of liberty.   Maybe.